Improving timelines for comprehensive environmental assessments

ERO number
Notice type
Environmental Assessment Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Bulletin posted
Last updated

This notice is for informational purposes only. There is no requirement to consult on this initiative on the Environmental Registry of Ontario. Learn more about the types of notices on the registry.

Update Announcement

We updated the notice on March 14, 2023 to upload the French version of the notice.

Bulletin summary

Ontario is providing an update on the government’s plan to move forward with a number of key initiatives that will make it easier to complete a comprehensive or individual environmental assessment (EA) while maintaining environmental oversight and opportunities for consultation.

Why consultation isn't required

This posting is for information only. No policy is being proposed at this time. Public consultation is not required under the Environmental Bill of Rights.

Ontario intends to consult at a later date on the proposal for improving timelines for the comprehensive environmental assessment process.

Bulletin details

Advancing provincial priorities

Ontario is taking continued action to modernize its almost 50-year-old environmental assessment process that is not reflective of best practices and that places undue burden on proponents that may not lead to environmental benefits and results in unnecessary cost for critical infrastructure projects.

Ontario is proposing sensible, practical changes that would continue to provide strong environmental oversight while reducing delays to getting shovels in the ground on projects that matter most to Ontario communities.

Improving timelines for comprehensive environmental assessments

As part of modernizing the environmental assessment program, we will be building on ideas shared in the 2019 discussion paper: modernizing Ontario’s environmental assessment program and amendments made in 2020 to the Environmental Assessment Act that make it easier to complete a comprehensive EA.

Currently, a comprehensive environmental assessment can take up to six years to complete, adding additional delays to major infrastructure projects such as large landfills.

The government is committed to working with Indigenous communities, the regulated community, and government agencies to:

  • improve the quality of submissions
  • ensure the review process is as efficient as possible

This will allow important infrastructure projects to get underway faster while maintaining consultation opportunities.

Any future changes will not limit or restrict the consideration of any issues raised that are related to potential impact on constitutionally protected Aboriginal and treaty rights. Reducing timelines for comprehensive EAs will not impact any duty to consult Indigenous communities in relation to particular projects.

Initiatives to help improve timelines

Ontario intends to reduce the timelines through improvements in the following four areas:

  1. Sector based terms of reference
  2. Guidance for proponents
  3. Updating the codes of practice
  4. Improving internal review processes
  1. Sector-based terms of reference

    For each project that undergoes a comprehensive EA, proponents must develop and consult on a terms of reference, (i.e. the workplan for the EA).

    The act provides authority to make regulations that set out standardized requirements for the preparation of an environmental assessment for common types of projects. Establishing standard and templated, sector-based terms of reference for recurring projects would reduce the time it takes to develop and review one of these documents by up to 1.5 years.

    Later this year, the ministry will begin working with Indigenous communities, various sectors, and partner ministries to develop a proposal for sector-based terms of reference(s) for further consultation.

  2. Guidance for proponents

    In the future, the ministry plans to update its guidance materials for proponents.

    Improved guidance will help ensure that proponents are submitting a complete EA the first time. This may include the development of completeness checklists prior to submitting an EA for review, or other types of guidance.

  3. Updating the codes of practice

    Ontario has a number of codes of practice related to consultation and the development and review of terms of reference and comprehensive EAs. These are available on and include:

    • Environmental assessments: consulting Indigenous communities
    • Consultation in Ontario’s environmental assessment process
    • Preparing and reviewing terms of reference for environmental assessments in Ontario
    • Preparing and reviewing environmental assessments in Ontario

    The codes were developed in consultation with:

    • Indigenous communities
    • government agencies
    • environmental assessment practitioners
    • other interested persons

    The last update to the codes was almost 10 years ago. The ministry plans to review and update these important guidance documents to ensure they reflect current best practices and legislative requirements, as well as clearly identifying the relevant information needed to complete and submit an EA for approval.

    Ontario will consult with Indigenous communities, government agencies, the public and EA practitioners on updates to the codes of practice later in 2023.

  4. Improving internal review processes

    A key mechanism for oversight in the environmental assessment process is engaging other ministries and agencies in the review of a comprehensive EA. Members of the government review team should be involved from the early stages of an EA to assist proponents in identifying areas of interest within their mandates. The government review team is responsible for:

    • providing information and guidance in a timely manner within the ministries’ mandated areas of responsibility that the proponent should consider when preparing the environmental assessment (for example, legislative requirements, standards, potential evaluation criteria, policies such as the Provincial Policy Statement)
    • providing consistent advice in a timely manner throughout the course of the decision-making process
    • participating in the government review of the environmental assessment after it is submitted to the ministry by reviewing the document based on the agency’s mandate, submitting comments to the ministry by the required deadline, and working with the proponent and the ministry to address any issues

    To help ensure this process is as efficient as possible Ontario will work directly with partner ministries and other government review team members on the development of Memoranda of Understanding (MOU). The MOU will provide clear requirements for meeting regulated timelines and outline key areas of focus related to mandates.

Connect with us


EA Modernization Project Team

Environmental Assessment Modernization Branch

135 St Clair Ave West
4th Floor
Toronto, ON
M4V 1P5

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